It’s Valentine’s Day, and all I can think about is leaving. With my lifestyle—with any dirtbag-ish lifestyle—comes the issue of leaving, as it is the very essence of rambling. When is it right to go? When is it right to stay? Most of us have grappled with these thoughts from time to time. Or, if you’re me, it’s all you think about.
The other day I reached the 6-month mark at my job and simultaneously set a new record for the longest period I have stayed in one place since graduating college. When I realized this, I felt a twinge of disappointment, as I pondered whether this meant I am becoming complacent. For years now, I have considered my desire to roam a fundamental part of who I am. My father refers to my lifestyle as trapeezing through my twenties. Propelled by curiosity and fear of complacency, I sometimes I swing gracefully from one job to another, and other times I am catapulted through space, bouncing from one part of the world to another. Not long after I settle in and adapt to a new place and job, I begin to get restless. It starts as a subtle tightening in my chest, eventually developing into an ache. At first the ache can be quelled by a long run in the mountains or a trip to a new crag. But soon, the longing for the road, for the unknown becomes overwhelming and can only be satiated by leaving. How many times have I packed up my worldly possessions and driven off for a new place, window down, arm thumping the side of the vehicle as I sing along to Steve Earl’s “Hillbilly Highway” or Townes Van Zandt’s “To Live Is To Fly”? So many. The fluttering in my chest, twisting of my stomach are familiar and welcome sensations.
But for the first time ever, I thought about staying. With an offer on the table for a PhD program, I thought about what it would mean to stay put for once. I thought about how many relationships have ended because of my restless wandering. I thought about what it would mean to try being an adult working towards a career, especially one that my family would be proud of. It would mean setting down the keys to my truck. It would mean being a semi-committed weekend warrior. It would also mean a good job. But would it be ultimately void of passion? Maybe.
Normally when I am grappling with something difficult (a relationship, a job, school), I lace up my shoes and head for the forest. And run. I run until my legs quiver and my lungs rasp. I run until I’m so tired I can’t think. However, today instead I went skiing. I listened to the soft hiss as my skis glided over the snow. I made my way out into the trees where some untouched powder awaited my blundering Rossignols. I stopped at the edge of the slope and looked down. I traced my line in my mind. It was steep. The powder was deep. My skis were too narrow. My legs burned just thinking about the run. I felt a twinge of fear. And then it hit me. In skiing, much like in life, you can stand at the edge and worry about what awaits you below, or you can point your skis downhill and take the turns as they come. Though it can be a hard decision, I believe that wanting to leave is enough. You don’t need a reason or a plan. Just go. Let your feet or your tires or your skis lead you. This is me letting go and dropping in.